Embattled Uber CEO On The Way Out?

REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

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Eric Lieberman Managing Editor
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Uber’s board of directors met Sunday to discuss potentially placing CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick on a leave of absence, according to a report published Sunday by The New York Times.

The company leaders also addressed suggestions that Senior Vice President of Business Emil Michael leave as well, albeit permanently. The board convened as the ride-sharing company is currently dealing with a number of debacles and their aftermath, including an investigation into workplace culture, a mass exodus of high-level executives, and a lawsuit issued by tech giant Google.

In addition, the Department of Justice is investigating the company’s use of secretive proprietary spying tool called “Greyball,” which apparently helped it elude regulators and law enforcement for years.

While a number of senior officials, like the then-president and then-head of communications and policy, have left in recent months, the board is reportedly looking for an even bigger shake up. (RELATED: Uber Showcases Its Diversity Report By Calling Certain Kinds Of Employees ‘Jewbers’)

The company fired 20 separate employees in June as part of the probe, and several others were given punishments or warnings as well.

A horrible personal tragedy is likely contributing to Kalanick’s potential departure. Michael’s, though, presumably stems almost purely from his involvement in a series of scandals. He once apologized after bringing up the idea of Uber doing its own investigative work on journalists who are critical of the company. He also allegedly analyzed a rape victim’s medical records over apparent suspicions of authenticity, along with Kalanick and the now-fired executive who obtained the personal files.

The committee uniformly agreed to accept all of the recommendations submitted by former Attorney General Eric Holder and his law firm. With board member Arianna Huffington of the eponymous Huffington Post and two other people internal to the organization, Holder was chosen to conduct the investigation into systemic sexism and sexual harassment allegations much to the disappointment of investors who hoped for an “independent” probe. (RELATED: Uber Hires Two Female Executives Amid Sexism And Sexual Harassment Allegations)

Aspects of the guidance are reportedly expected to include how to control spending, and how to decrease Kalanick’s autonomy over departments like human resources. One investor said the board’s decisions could provide Uber with an “opportunity to reboot,” according to Reuters.

The board is also helping the company find a chief operating officer to assist Kalanick. The chief executive told staff in March that he needed help honing his leadership skills and managing the ride-sharing service amidst the onslaught of internal dilemmas and public relations nightmares.

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